Researchers have noted five domains of stress that affect our overall equilibrium and ability to learn effectively.
Pinpointing which domain might be putting pressure your child’s stress levels is the first step in helping them learn more while feeling their best. Here are the five domains of stress.
The Biological Domain
Ever wondered why we get cranky when we’re tired? Proper sleep, nutrition and eating habits, movement and exercise, body awareness and health status are all biological considerations that increase our resiliency to environmental stressors. Sensitivity to environmental stressors such as sound and light levels is directly correlated to adequate biological energy and recovery levels.
Early childhood development specialists recommend helping children learn to regularly recognize states of low energy and high tension. This self-awareness allows children to verbalize the actual source of their stress and reduces stress reactions for improved resilience. This way, you can have your child work on their distance learning when they are optimally energized for knowledge acquisition.
The Emotional Domain
When a child becomes distraught, they have less capacity to control their emotions and register what others are saying because left-brain processes such as language, analysis and reflection are disrupted by the adrenaline in their system.
In this state, it is important to help soothe the child rather than educate. During an outburst parents can provide an alternate environment where children feel safe and calm. It is important to not force them to monitor, evaluate and modify what they are feeling during an emotional outburst. This type of reflection is best done once the child has calmed down so that their emotional growth can be more powerful.
The Cognitive Domain
Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in learning including: attention, perception, memory and problem solving. When a child is uncomfortable or stressed, there is not enough energy to perform these cognitive tasks (as well as others such as sequencing ideas, ignoring distractions and more).
Simple body awareness exercises (such as focusing on the breath), or asking your child to identify which activities help them release stress can reduce cognitive stress. The better your child can identify and reduce stressors, the better they can recognize the causes to inattentiveness for greater success.
The Social Domain
Children who are hyper-sensitive to social situations can find this to be a major stressor that affects them in multiple areas in life (especially learning). It can be difficult for young children to communicate when they go into a flight-or-flight response which can result in them sometimes acting aggressively and withdrawing from social communication.
In these situations, children need to be allowed to retreat from the socialization and should be soothed to feel a sense of safety and security.
Developing self-regulation in the social domain requires building positive social engagement patterns. This can be done by pacing social interactions to suit the child’s comfort level, and helping them learn to recognize when they begin to feel anxious in social situations to develop self-regulating strategies.
The Pro-Social Domain
This domain relates to aspects of being human such as empathy, generosity, and character and their effect on us as individuals. The prosocial domain is most predominantly affected in children with poor arousal regulation (particularly emotional regulation). As a result, these children may have a hard time experiencing cognitive empathy because they can’t share, sympathize, or communicate with others effectively.
Helping your child develop empathy by overtly modeling empathetic behaviour and teaching them to imagine others complexly before responding to social cues can raise their emotional intelligence and in turn their executive functioning and self-regulation skills for greater success and happiness.